Stop the search

All that’s ever going on is we’re having a full 4D experience of the power of Thought. Every single moment of every day.

Image of search bar

You’ll be familiar with search engines and algorithms in tech work. When you search for a new sofa suddenly new sofa adverts pop up everywhere on every social media channel, on every search engine page. Showing you what you need. read more

Mine’s better than yours

How comparing from the perspective of the self brings nothing of benefit.

Money Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

This phrase, “mine’s better than yours”, usually brings to mind a child’s voice, in my head a boastful, whiny voice, combined with the thought of the house, the car, the job, the clothes. All the material stuff that’s chased, believing it brings the contentment we seek. read more

#Upstream to find ourselves

This piece from Perry Timms prompted me to share my own world of upstream and what that means to me. Thank you Perry.

Photo by Tobias Stonjeck on Unsplash

#Upstream is a place where we can go before we think about the transformation we are being invited to consider.” This quote from Perry’s piece really strikes a chord with me. In three client sessions yesterday when we went upstream, each client came back to the downstream challenges they walked in with and saw a simple and clear way forward and, in some instances, the challenge had all but disappeared into the ether. read more

#cipdldshow – Developing line managers for coaching conversations

Final session of the show!  It’s been a ball!!

This one is with Sandra Nixon of QVC and Rhonda Howarth from Nestle who are talking about how to develop line managers to have effective coaching conversations.  A coaching leadership style is essential to operate effectively in today’s world and for a line manager it can’t always be about sitting for hours having in-depth coaching sessions but about making it a fluid part of your everyday way of working.  I’m interested to see what QVC’s and Nestle’s takes are on it.

First up is Sandra from QVC who’ve been going through a 10 year programme including investment in line manager skills which are being delivered in a sustainable way.  She’s going to talk about embedding a coaching environment, some of their lessons and how they’ve made it sustainable to keep it alive.

They’ve followed the McKkinsey 7S change model and at the centre has been the focus on shared values.  they believe in investing in their people for success.  They bring their values into performance management, reward, recognition, a 2-day culture programme that everyone attends.  They believe in creating a great employee experience to deliver a great customer experience – woop!!!

When they started the change they were getting good feedback from employees and customers, sales were in growth, new tech was being introduced, things were feeling very positive so to take the next step they started thinking about the future.  They had a lot of senior people who’d been promoted from technical roles without any development and without clarity of what leadership means in QVC.  They started to shape leadership as a role where you’re there for your team to help support, develop and grow them – woop again!

They did their first employee survey in 2007 which cemented an opportunity to focus on skills of frontline leaders.  they has about a third of responses sitting around neutral they could see moving to positive.

They decided they wanted to move to a coaching culture to improve employee experience – although without any idea what their strategy might be – except that they saw it as enabling a great relationship and a skill that transfers across any employee-manager conversation – absence, performance, career….

So they thought about what they wanted to achieve – what does it look like if we have a coaching culture, what will be different, how will we know we’ve got there, what will we see, hear & feel, what do we want to keep hold of and what are we not doing.  Then what do we want to achieve in Year 1 and by Year 3?

Sandra’s using the analogy of white water rafting to explain the start of the journey.  That was how she felt and also that’s how their managers approached it.  Do I have the skills? What if I fall out the boat?  What if I lose my job? And others were raring to get in the boat – give me the paddle, I’ll give anything a go.  they recognised they needed everyone on board before they started out so the business was clear about what the expectations were of the future and that their opportunity would be to learn towards that and make mistakes along the way without losing their jobs.

There were lots who already thought they did coaching – what they were actually doing was giving them feedback (this is a common experience of mine too) so they needed to first of all be clear about coaching, mentoring and giving & receiving feedback – with constant reiteration of the definitions to be clear what they were talking about as an organisation and to shift mindsets.

They developed coaching skills (see photo) – first of all doing this with the HR team so they could be ambassadors and role models.  Senior leaders were involved to set the scene at the start of the learning programme to set expectations of the learners and emphasise this wasn’t going to be a fad or the latest thing. some leaders chose to leave – which is fine.  It wasn’t for them.

They found that leaders weren’t aware of their skills gaps or weren’t prepared to be vulnerable and admit they had gaps.  this led them to move into developing leaders into emotional intelligence, self awareness, self regulation, liming beliefs….Refer back to earlier session.  the depth and quality of coaching is enhanced by the strength of relationship and so this work really needed to be done first.

Sustainability – workshops, e-learning, have used every opportunity to reinforce.

They wondered how they could assess how effective their leaders were being.  They decided to get Ops Mgrs to observe Team Leaders when they’re coaching their team members to see in real time the way they’re behaving together.  Scary but a great way to get real feedback, raise awareness, learn and improve.  (Our best learning comes from discomfort.)

They had feedback that they had too many models so they decided to become masters of 1 or 2 models.  Giving too much was clouding things for them.

They introduced Lean 6 Sigma – another opportunity to use coaching to say How do you do things on a day to day basis, how could you improve that.

ROI – employee survey – improvements year on year, improvements in attrition, in business results.

When they started in 2007 they were QVC UK and other countries operated separately but now they’re a global, matrix org so looking to how to be more effective and productive in that new world.  Many of the leaders chosen to lead the matrix org have come from the UK and you can see a significant difference in their capability compared to their global colleagues because of their greater emotional intelligence.  So now they’re back to strategy – how can we influence the global agenda and how will that look?


Next up, Rhonda from Nestle who’s going to talk about the role of a manager in their business and how they’ve supported leadership development through coaching networks.

Nestle already has a global approach to coaching and a strategy. Rhonda & her team’s job is to make sure managers are equipped to coach to ensure a coaching culture throughout.  They’re a business created by lots of separate businesses that have been acquired but they’re looking to standardise expectations and standards across.

Expectations are that they engage and inspire their people, grow and develop their people, support their career.  Variety of ways people join the programme : Apprenticeship, Graduate programme, Existing workforce, Direct entry – so leaders need to flex to different needs and priorities.

Their anchor for leadership programme:

As an individual – Know yourself

As a line manager – Coach and Develop

Senior leader – Develop org capability

They also have NCE – about driving improvement, consistency, quality, safety, lean – done lots here around coaching to engage operators in solution finding.

They’re about to launch Purpose and Values.  Their new global CEO wants to anchor people to this.  Purpose “Enhancing quality of life and contributing to the future.”  Sso now with coaching they want to bring people back to these and to the values.

People Development and Performance – in Nestle they’ve fine tuned their appraisal process rather than removing it – but they have made it more frequent so people have check ins through the year.  They have a holistic assessment at year end – the overall goals & performance of day job – and feed that into reward.  Coaching is essential in check ins so people are having quality conversations which feeds satisfaction with end of year outcomes around reward – they intend this at least as they’ve not come to the end of the first year of this new cycle yet.

Their coaching is based on GROW supported by skill development in listening, questions, giving feedback, providing challenge.  they’re also helping leaders with mindset so they go into conversations with employees clear about how they want to be and therefore the impact they want to have.

The senior leadership have also taken coaching on board, have developed their skills and are co-coaching each other as well as using a coaching approach more in day to day.

Nestle have a Global Coaching Network, Peer to Peer Coaching that can happen on factory floors and in the next level of supervisors, Coaching Groups connected to the Accreditation Pathway so they learn to be a coach and alongside that are these groups to continue learning.  They’ve gone with ICF Accreditation for their formal qualifications.

Some Q’s:

How does being a coach marry with them delivering their operational job? > In Nestle it’s been a behavioural shift by helping them stand back from problems, find a different way of solving by enabling the team to learn and self-solve through coaching so next time they self-solve with more confidence next time.  Creates more time / less pressure for the long term.

QVC have learnt that leaders need to recognise when they need to coach, when to mentor, when to give feedback.  You can’t coach all the time as a line manager.  Also needed to help with how to performance manage with this coaching approach – it didn’t mean we aren’t doing that now, it’s just we’re doing it with a different style.  And it takes time and practice because when the pressure’s on we revert to control and tell.


This post has been live blogged from a session at CIPD Learning & Development Show. I’ve shared as I’ve heard it so there may be typos and I won’t have captured the whole thing but the intention is to give you a good sense of what was shared.

#barefootwinterconf Reflections

Last week I attended the Barefoot Winter Conference at Prestwold Hall (beautiful location – and yes I’m slightly biased because it’s where I got married!).  This post is a collation of my thoughts and reflections from the day which I know will help me learn and absorb, and which I hope will have some nuggets of interest and insight for you.

On the practical conference front, it was a brilliantly run event with good amounts of time for each workshop – all of which were interactive, learning sessions – no sages on stages chalking & talking.  And a good long lunch for quality network time.  A definite focus on quality not quantity all day.

Keynote – Prof Roger Steare – on values-driven orgs, leadership and ethics

Since the 2008 crash stories have continued to emerge of unethical practice in organisations.  Read about Roger’s keynote in my Storify and how we helps organisations back to ethical decision-making.


Workshop 1 – Clean Language – Revealing Mental Models through Metaphor 

This session was with Sue Sharp and Tamsin Hartley from Clean Learning.

I chose this session for what might seem odd reasons.  I’d once been coached by someone who’d just done a Clean Language course and I really hated it.  So, because I believe it’s good to challenge our assumptions, I went along with the intent to learn more and open my mind to the possibilities of how I could use it in my practice.

What was great was that the session was involving and interactive from the start.  Lots of play with the approach, group discussion and conversation.

To give some context, the purpose of Clean Language is to find out how people work and think to raise their awareness to that and understand themselves (and others if a team thing) better.  Its purpose is also to remove assumptions from our own language which could (inadvertently) influence a client’s response.

A (made up) example of a clean language interaction could follow this flow –

  • For this meeting to go as you would like, it will be like what? > It will be fun and interactive and we’ll get through everything on the agenda.
  • And you will be like what? > I’ll need to keep an eye on the time while also checking everyone’s OK, and I’ll need plenty of energy.
  • What kind of [energy] is that [energy]? > It’s the kind of energy that bubbles away. It doesn’t spike up and drop down, it’s infectious and consistent.
  • Bubbles. Infectious. Consistent.  And is there anything else about that [energy]? > It’s natural.  It’s not forced.  It’s a natural result of wanting to be there in that conversation with those people.
  • Natural. Not forced. And where is that energy? > It’s in my heart and my head.  A sense of happiness and a buzz.
  • read more

    Threats everywhere!

    “When your own life is threatened, your sense of empathy is blunted by a terrible, selfish hunger for survival”
    Yann Martel, Life of Pi.

    If you swap the word “life” for –
    or “job”
    or “performance appraisal rating”
    or “hierarchical position
    or “share of the budget”
    or “pay rise”…..

    you have some of the threats our minds perceive all the time at work.

    These modern day threats generate fight or flight responses – at different levels depending on the threat and on the person.

    The fight or flight can cause us to feel fear and we shrink away, or anger and we become defensive. Even if we believe we respond well to pressure, our perspective on a situation will have narrowed and our ability to think laterally or creatively will have dropped.

    And, as Yann’s quote so accurately says, we will lose our ability to empathise with others.

    Less empathy means less trust.

    Without trust we don’t communicate well, and our’s and others’ work is affected because people aren’t getting the full story.

    Not a great place to be.

    And yet this happens in workplaces across the globe every single day.

    On the bright side, this story can be flipped on its head. We can choose to be different. We can choose to create organisations where threats are minimised, or people are enabled to handle them better, or ideally both.

    And to be most effective, belief in such a workplace comes from the top and filters through everything.

    What goes on where you are that causes threats to egos, self esteem, safety….?
    How do you want it to be?
    How can you develop self awareness to enable more helpful responses to threats?
    What can be changed?

    I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

    Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better –
    or take a look at my website to find out more

    Sticky Change

    When we got home from holiday the other week I was making a coffee. Kettle on, cups out of the cupboard….something felt odd but I wasn’t sure what, so I just carried on. Then as I passed James his drink I realised I’d made it in the mug he doesn’t like. We’d had a laugh a few months before about getting old and set in our ways if we’d got to the stage of having favourite mugs!


    So for quite a while we’d been having our cuppas in our own personal favourites.  Yet despite the length of time we’d been doing that, and even though we’d only been away for two weeks, I’d forgotten about it. The change hadn’t stuck.

    It reminded me of a school meeting at the end of last term where the parents were invited in, to hear about the changes ahead, as our children move up to the heady heights of Year 3!!

    There were lots of new things like more homework, music classes, new PE kit, and a general theme of the children taking more responsibility for themselves. “Don’t worry though” the head of Year 3 told us “we’ll be there to help your children adapt and change so they get used to the new routine and new expectations. By half term, and certainly by Christmas, it’ll be just the way it is.”

    So to make this change stick with children (who are fairly adaptable and mouldable) the teachers (who know exactly what the change needs to be) expect to spend 6-12 weeks consistently reinforcing the new standards.


    I couldn’t help thinking how often we attempt to make changes in work, or even within ourselves, and that after [one briefing / one training session / one read-through of a self-help book / one coaching session*] we believe everything’s been done, all boxes ticked, to make the ‘new’ stick and then we move on to the next big thing.  And given that the world isn’t a place of black and white certainty, we often don’t really know exactly what the ‘new’ looks like – unlike the teachers.

    On top of this, we as adults are less mouldable than children. We have a lot more stories, beliefs and rules stored and reinforced in our subconscious that hold us back from changing because it feels scary.

    But the world is fast and changing ever faster. New and different expectations appear every day.

    So what do we do? What choices do we have to deal with this?

    I don’t have all the answers. And yet, as I write that, maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s the answer, because nobody has all the answers.


    Maybe if we want change to happen and to stick we need more collaboration, we need to make it a ‘together’ thing so that more people with different viewpoints are part of creating the ‘new’.  Even if that ‘new’ is your own improved leadership, asking those around you for feedback on their perceptions of how you are now will provide more information to help shape how you want to be different.

    Then if more people ‘get it’ from the start, they can spot and challenge when it’s not happening – they play the role of the teachers!  Whether it’s trusted confidants or a coach for a personal change, or colleagues in a hierarchy-flattened high-trust team for a work change.

    And if we’re serious about the change we’ll need ongoing reminders from those ‘teachers’ until new pathways in the brain have been created and stuck.

    But also, as individuals, we need support to develop ourselves and raise our awareness so that we recognise our beliefs that could be causing the change to feel threatening or challenging. Once we know them we can check if those beliefs are actually true or if there could be something more true, helpful and less threatening to believe.

    So whether there’s a change you want to make within you, or within your business….

    Who’s going to help you create the change and decide on what the ‘new’ is?

    Who will help you find out and challenge your beliefs that are causing you to feel concerned?

    Who are your supporters to help the change stick?

    Who will bring challenge when things go off track?

    Who’ll play the role of your teachers?

    So change can be made easier but to achieve that we need to wake up and smell the coffee (made in the right mug!) so that we make it a ‘together’ thing that we stick with until it sticks – or until the next change happens which changes our direction again!


    *please delete any that don’t apply

    Image credits –’s_sticky_goo.jpg